Just Answers: Where Alaska US House candidates stand on banning assault weapons

three assault rifles on a table
Three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 15, 2012. The gunmen in two of the nation’s most recent mass shootings, including the massacre at a Texas elementary school, legally bought the assault weapons they used after they turned 18. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Forty-eight candidates are running in the special election to fill the rest of Congressman Don Young’s term. It’s the most candidates ever in one election in Alaska. First up is the primary. Ballots are out now and must be returned by June 11.

To help Alaskans sort through the dozens of options, we’re asking each candidate where they stand on the issues.

Here’s how they responded, in their own words, to the following question about banning assault weapons:

Would you support a ban on the manufacture and importation of semiautomatic assault weapons, as defined in the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004? Please explain your response in no more than 50 words.

Jay Armstrong (R): “NEVER. Read the preamble to our Bill of Rights. They’re restrictive clauses against Our US government we created.  Constitutionally ALL our civil rights are off limits to them including owning high capacity semi automatic rifles. More responsible firearm owners are the answer.”

Tim Beck (Undeclared): “I see no reason to not reimpose the ban as it was in 2004. There was no restriction on hunters. If you can’t hit what your shooting at with one shot you need more practice with your weapon of choice or stalking your prey to put yourself in range.”

Nick Begich (R): “I strongly support the Second Amendment. I would not support reinstating the ban that expired in 2004.”

Gregg Brelsford (undeclared): “I am the proud hunter-owner of a gun, belong to a shooting range and the NRA, hold a concealed carry permit, and passionately support the 2nd Amendment. I join millions of conservative-American, safety-conscious gun owners like me who recognize the need for common sense state-laws, like Florida’s, on gun purchasing.”

Robert Brown (nonpartisan): “I would not support any gun bans. Most gun control disproportionately discriminates against the middle and lower class, as well as minorities.”

Chris Bye (R): “Tragedies like Uvalde are due to a lack of  regulations or laws.  They are incidents of the heart.  No new rule or regulation will prevent this from happening.   Prevention will only occur when we collectively care for one another and address bullying.”

Arlene Carle (nonpartisan): “No.  With millions of these weapons already in the hands of citizens, banning  newly manufactured or imported ones would not meaningfully address problems like the Uvalde massacre.  More productive Legislation would try to identify and treat likely perpetrators.”

Santa Claus (undeclared):  “YES – IF AMENDED: remove numerous exceptions, include weapons with/without modification and/or accessories, raise age to 21, restrict use to active military forces and on-duty law enforcement officers, include 117th Congress HR7910 and SB736 provisions, safe storage, no-exception UBCs, red flag protections, and repeal gun industry immunity.”

John Coghill (R):  “I do not support an assault weapon ban. A nation wide ban violates our second amendment for all law abiding citizens. Law breakers would be empowered with gun control because they care not for the law or the life of others. Secure gun free zones. improve our public safety responses.”

Chris Constant (D): “Yes. We have to carefully navigate the Second Amendment, however, sales have increased nearly every year over the past decade, and will increase without further action. We have way more guns than people in the U.S. We have to do something.  More assault rifles will not help save children.”

Al Gross (nonpartisan): “I support universal background checks and interviews by local authorities for assault weapon purchases which are held to a national standard. I was interviewed by a TSA agent to get my 5 year TSA pre-check card. This level of scrutiny is appropriate if someone wants to buy an AR-15.”

Andrew Halcro (nonpartisan): “Yes.”

Ted Heintz (nonpartisan): “No. That was a proven failure. Any real reduction in crime must address mental health and substance abuse with a focus on prevention.”

John Wayne Howe (AIP): “No.  All gun control laws are unconstitutional, their existence is equal to making the US constitution void.  We need to remove gun laws, not make more.”

Don Knight (nonpartisan): “I  suggest a  government appointed individual be part of any gun purchase. They would evaluate and be accountable for sponsoring the applicant to purchase. If any unlawful activities occur as a result of the applicant in the future, the evaluator may lose their license and be otherwise liable.”

Jeff Lowenfels (nonpartisan): “Absolutely support! Military style, semiautomatic weapons  were not contemplated by the second amendment, but even if they were, I’d be in favor of the bans.”

Sherry Mettler (undeclared): “I have to believe that there are many untapped ways to have safety in our society without infringing on our 2ndAmendment rights.”

Mike Milligan (D): “No, there are millions in circulation since 2004, a new ban would just be a fundraising gold mine for the NRA. Restrict semi auto purchase and possession, including pistols, for anyone under 25, exceptions for .22 caliber rimfire. Anyone convicted of shooting a highway sign is barred firearms for life.”

J.R. Myers (Libertarian): “No, I would not support a ban on the manufacture and importation of semi automatic  assault weapons, as I believe is outside the legitimate scope of Constitutional authority for the federal government.”

Robert Ornelas (American Independent Party): “No, I do not support it. I fully support the 2nd Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. Alaska has a problem like Ukraine with the Russian Military in occupation. A well-regulated militia is necessary to expel Russian military from Wrangell Island, Alaska in the Arctic Ocean.”

Sarah Palin (R): “No. The term “assault weapons” doesn’t even have a universally agreed-upon definition, and politicians have proven time and again that they are more than willing to abuse ambiguity like that to infringe on our freedoms.”

Silvio Pellegrini (undeclared): “On principle alone, no. Multiple studies have shown the Assault Weapon Ban of 2004 had little to no effect on the reduction violence from the firearms targeted.”

Mary Peltola (D): “I support the creation of a bipartisan congressional committee tasked with bringing common sense gun legislation to Congress that helps prevent tragedies in our communities, preserves the subsistence lifestyle that many people depend on, and respects our 2nd amendment rights.”

Tara Sweeney (R): “I am a steadfast supporter of Alaskans’ Second Amendment rights and could not support measures that would infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

David Thistle (undeclared):  “do NOT support a ban on any type of weapons.  The 2nd Amendment is very clear.  Disarming American’s is exactly what the Russians, Chinese and Cartels have been praying for. I believe in properly Funding and Training our Police.”

 Ernest Thomas (D): “Yes l would support such a bill.  Better yet, control the ammunition.  No bullets no deaths.”  

 Adam Wool (D): “I find this type of question a bit unrealistic. The assault weapons ban that was previously in law was acceptable, but it’s a different political landscape right now. I do believe we need to limit access to these types of weapons but the details matter.”

 Stephen Wright (R): “No, I would not support a continued ban on assault weapons. I feel that it is the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. It is our second amendment right that shall not be infringed. We must uphold our constitution.”

 Jo Woodward (R): “I would indeed support the ban if enough guns are manufactured in the US.”

Editor’s note: We’ve left answers mostly unedited. If candidates exceeded the word count we did not include the last sentence(s).

The following candidates are on the ballot, but Alaska Public Media has not yet received a response to our emails: Dennis Aguayo, Brian Beal, John Callahan, Lady Donna Dutchess, Otto FlorschutzLaurel Foster, Tom Gibbons, Karyn Griffin, William Hibler, David Hughes, Robert Lyons, Anne McCabe, Mike Melander, Emil Notti, Josh Revak, Maxwell Sumner, Richard Trotter, Bradley Welter, and Jason Williams.

Find more elections coverage here.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.